His Own Best Straight Man

Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume One

edited by Harriet Elinor Smith, Benjamin Griffin, Victor Fischer, Michael B. Frank, Sharon K. Goetz, and Leslie Diane Myrick
University of California Press, 736 pp., $34.95

He would have loved it. Dead for a hundred years, but climbing the best-seller lists with a memoir whose publication he deferred for a century till everyone mentioned in it, along with anyone who remembered them, would be dead too and in no position to complain. Since he lived (1835–1910) as if a single lifetime could not contain him, it’s entirely apt that he’s back with a posthumous encore.

Mark Twain is sometimes imagined as a shambling fellow with a slow drawl (there are no known recordings of his voice), but in fact, he was incessantly restless, edgy, tight-wired, rarely at rest. In one three-month period while living in Washington, he moved five times.

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Twain on Twain April 7, 2011